Friday, March 8, 2013

Exploring Maternal Haplogroups

In honor of International Women's day and because I was itching to write about a certain haplogroup, I decided that this was the opportune time for me to write!

So far with 23andme, I have been able to test 7 people in my family including myself and have been able to discover 4 different maternal haplogroups. What's interesting about our haplogroups is that they aren't from just one area- with the migration to Puerto Rico coming from many different areas and for many different reasons, our maternal heritage (just like our paternal heritage) tells many different stories. But the one I want to focus on mainly today is my great grandfather's European haplogroup U5b1b1b. First I'll talk quickly about the others.

My own personal maternal haplogroup came as a nice surprise to me when I first tested in 2009. When I got my results I was able to see that my maternal haplogroup was the indigenous C1b4. This group as you can see below is present in both Asia and the Americas. My guess is that somewhere along my maternal ancestress' line I descend from a Taíno/Arawak woman.

Similarly, another group found on the maternal side of the family that is also connected to Native Americans is called A2. A2 has a higher concentration up in North America near the Bering Strait. However, you can also see that it is evenly common and widespread throughout Central and Southern America. Again, this haplogroup was most likely introduced to my family through a Taíno/Arawak ancestress.

Found on my paternal side of the family is the only African Haplogroup I've discovered so far called L2a1. This haplogroup is found amongst African Americans seeing as how it is commonly found in Sub-Sahara Africa amongst the Bantu-speakers. Since it is so widespread it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where in Africa my ancestress would have originated from. Some speculate that its origin lies somewhere in Central Africa. Due to the Atlantic Slave Trade, many L2a1 carrying women entered areas such as the Caribbean, South America and North America which is why it is so commonly found there. I have not been able to figure out who my original L2a1 African born ancestress was, but hopefully one day I'll be able to know more about this line and haplogroup.

Lastly, my great grandfather is the only one in my family tested so far to carry a European haplogroup yet with an interesting history. His maternal haplogroup is known as U5b1b1b and can be found amongst the Basque and even amongst the Saami population in Northern Scandinavia.

U5b1b1b is part of the branch U5 which "arose among early colonizers of Europe around 40,000 years ago". But what's more interesting about this group is that is seems to have made its way back into Africa via Northern Africa where it can be found amongst people in Morocco and even as far south as Senegal. The big question for me is: Where did my U5b1b1b ancestress come from herself? Did she live in southern Spain before heading off to Puerto Rico? Was she a Moroccan woman who's family found their way to Spain and settled in Al-Andalus? Or was she just a European woman who's husband decided to head to the Caribbean and she agreed to the journey?

So far any of these stories and many others are possible. What's interesting is that my great grandfather does carry, according to Ancestry Composition, North African genes. Pictured below is his Chromosome 4 on "Standard Estimate" and the dark blue on the top is the North African he carries. There is a smaller chunk of it as well on Chromosome 7. Who he receives these genes from is still a mystery to me! Also in Ancestry Finder he receives a match with all 4 grandparents born in Morocco.

Chromosome 4- North African Genes
Chromosome 7- North African Genes
Chromosome 2- Moroccan Match
Hopefully one day I'll be able to name who these women were and talk about the lives they would have lived!


  1. Very interesting blog! I just discovered my mtDNA is C1b4, same as you.
    My mother's mother's family is from Caguas, PR- I've been able to trace back up 5 generations of women along my mother's line, up to Bernarda Medina Vazquez, born in Caguas PR around 1845-1850. Where is your mother's family from? I am fascinated by this.

    1. Thanks Annette! My maternal line originates in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico to a Juana Burgos born abt 1839. I think her mother was Monserrate Vasquez but I'm not 100% sure yet. I love that we still carry our native/Taíno heritage within us. I would love to find the original Taíno (or other native tribe) woman who gave me C1b4. Very fascinating indeed!

  2. I take the location of the L2a1 haplogroup with a skeptical view, since FTDNA says that I am L2a1m, but am pasty white, as is my mother and her sister.

    The only possibilities I can think of are that
    (a) berber women made it to Spain (where my mother's maternal grandmother is allegedly from) during the Muslim conquest 1300 years ago, or
    (b) sub-Saharan women were in Spain (travelers or slaves) and one of their descendants wound up in Barcelona, and her descendants has had daughters for 400 years.

    1. Hello Ron, yes very very possible! After the searching the group a bit more, it seems that group of L2a1 has found it's way into Spain as well! Like you mentioned probably during the muslim conquest that lasted for about 800 years! I'll definitely keep that possibility open for that ancestress! Thanks for commenting!

    2. It turns out that only my maternal grandmother's *father* is definitely from Barcelona.

      His wife and her family were in the Dominican Republic back in at least 1883. Also, that D.R. family had a habit of white Spanish men marrying mullato women.


  4. Hello gentlemen Ron & Luis my name if Yousif I am originally from Sudan currently and since 15 years living in Dubai my mtDNA is L2a1-G143A-T16189C! very interested to discover and find out more about this interesting haplogroup L2a1...